Jamie Clarke and Scott Simper, Expedition Hanesbrands’ climbing team, have been planning their Everest expedition for more than two years. The day has finally come for the 42-year-old Calgary mountaineer and adventurer and the 41-year-old Salt Lake City-based climber, photographer, and videographer to execute their final summit push. The two set out at 4 a.m. this morning under clear, starry skies and a biting wind. What runs through climbers’ minds on the eve of such a monumental endeavor? I asked them (and a few other questions) last night over a dinner of Sherpa stew:
When did you arrive at Everest Base Camp?
Simper: April 16
Clarke: April 10. Which day was it? The tenth? We have to get this straight before we see Elizabeth Hawley. She’ll rake us over the coals.
Final consensus: April 10
What have you been doing up here since April 10?
Simper: We’ve eaten over 70,000 calories. At least. Weekly. We also did a couple of rotations, slept at Camp I. That was a horrible night. There was no sleeping that night.
Clarke: Scottie puked, poor guy, all night. Then we came down, spent a day down here. Then went back up, spent two nights at Camp I. Moved to Camp II, spent a bunch of nights there. Then a few at Camp III, then one at Camp II, then we came back down and have been here for two weeks.
How many times have you climbed through the Khumbu Icefall?
Simper: Does it count coming back? It’s gotta be six.
How have you kept yourselves occupied at Base Camp?
Clarke: We brought books and we have a yoga tent. We’ve barely read any books and we certainly haven’t done any yoga.
Simper: We’ve been living in the tech tent ten hours a day.
How do you feel on the eve of your summit attempt?
Simper: I feel good. It’s exciting.
Clarke: I was going to say exciting! Nervous.
Simper: A little nervous, yeah.
Clarke: Don’t tell our sponsors.
Simper: It’s kind of been just focused on packing today, which has been a bit of a distraction.
Clarke: The last day it all creeps up on you, ten thousand little details, pack your drugs, organize your batteries, don’t forget your underwear, see a doctor. It’s a little bit stressful.
How do you keep yourself healthy, strong, and mentally psyched for such a big mountain?
Clarke: Climbing Mount Everest is a combination of determination, patience and urgency. It is a wicked recipe. It’s hard to get all those ingredients in the right measure. You know coming in that this is an eight-week, nine-week effort and you have to roll with the punches. It’s a big mountain and it’s climbed slowly. You can’t force yourself and you have sponsors. We need to deliver value to our sponsors because without them we wouldn’t be here.
Simper: How do you keep psyched? The thing is, you know you’re going to be here a long time and you’re mentally prepared for that before you come.
You both have a family back home. How does that change things?
Clarke: I really struggle because I miss my family and I know that sounds hokey, but everybody misses his family and nobody ever really talks about it because all we get asked about is avalanches and the cold and the wind and the danger. But what about the human part of it? I’m not talking about the comfort of home, a shower and a warm bed, all those things, I don’t care about that. What I miss is looking at my kids smiling at me, or yelling at them to lift the seat before they pee, or just holding my wife’s hand. There’s nothing like going to Everest and thinking your going to lose it to remind you of how important it is.
Simper: I’m thinking about my family every other step. I’m being a lot safer. I’ve made a promise to come back and I’m trying to be as careful as I can, make good calls about the weather, good calls about not completely pushing it, you know.
Clarke: Nothing trumps being at home making pancakes on a Saturday morning.
Simper: Or having your kid run up, jump into your lap, and throw his arms around your neck. That’s good stuff.
Jamie, You summitted Everest in 1997. What’s different about this climb?
Clarke: I’m a lot different. I feel a lot different. The surroundings are different. The glaciers are smaller. I feel a lot more appreciative this time around than maybe I did when I was 29. Failing twice on the north side made me humble and taught me that I’m just a pretty miniscule little dot on this whole crazy spinning earth of ours, but there’s so much that’s the same: altitude sickness, wind, cold, weather reports, the smiles of your Sherpa friends.
Scott, you’re an accomplished technical climber. How do you like climbing at such high altitude?
Simper: Not particularly. It’s not fun up there. But it’s beautiful and it’s an honor and a privilege to climb this mountain. It demands a lot. You have to be very respectful of it. There are two things I want to do at the top: Take a moment and think about my grandma, Norma Giacoma, who got me into mountain climbing, and I have a lock of my son Obie’s hair. I want to let it into the wind. But I’ve never fully summited the mountain until I’m back down.